Twittamentary and the TwittaWall

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As Twittamentary is a crowd sourced documentary, the the Twitter Wall at IRL screenings has become an integral part of the live Twittamentary experience.

It initially provided a prompt to remind the audience that the use of phones to tweet while watching is strictly encouraged. We’re all so conditioned to turning phones off (or at least putting them on silent) in the Cinema that this reminder has often been essential in encouraging live interaction (or “twitteraction”) during screenings.
This was a very important aspect of our plans to experiment with crowd sourcing at every possible stage in the creative process. Through 2011, this twitter wall feedback from the rough-cut, or “beta”, screenings provided input into the next cut of the film. We did 15 of these beta screenings and 15 iterative new cuts between each screening to create the final crowd sourced edit.
I’m just finishing Seth Godins “We Are All Weird” in which he writes:
The biggest cultural shift that the Internet has amplified is the ability to make an impact on our own culture
It’s a keen insight, and one which the Twitter Wall highlights in its role as a creative conduit. It’s enabled the audience members at those 15 early screenings to become intimately involved in the film making process. This goes way beyond the traditional movie studio “rough-cut” screening process, where a couple of different edits will be shown to test the films ending and fineness the chances of a big opening weekend. In Twittamentary, the twitter feedback really did help create the final cut. Themes were added, cut, expanded and made more concise. All blended seamlessly (we hope) with Siok’s expert curation skills.
However, as cool as this is, for me, the Twitter wall provides an additional deeper element to the documentary movie experience.
The Twitter Wall makes the social, and sociable, aspect of the film entirely visible and completes the interactive experience. It makes transparent the realtime connections that the audience members make with each other and with the cast while they watch them on screen.
This interaction with the cast breaks a constraint that all traditional documentaries are bound by: time. As soon as the footage of a documentary is captured it becomes dated. Naturally, the greater the time between the footage being shot and the screening, the more dated it becomes. With Twittamentary, this is important as the original footage was shot in 2010, a couple of years before the movie was finally released. However, very often during screenings a cast member will respond to a tweet from the audience with an up to the minute update on their story or share an, in-hindsight, insight.
A traditional, static, one way, documentary becomes a real-time, interactive experience where the cast joins the audience at the screening via twitter while they watch.
A living, interactive, real-time, documentary.  Now that’s Social Media.

Twittamentary: a social-media experiment in the media of movies

Twittamentary will be available to download at twittamentary.com from tomorrow and on other sites such as amazon.com very shortly.

Getting Twittamentary to its “theatrical premier” has been an amazing, fun and thought provoking project to work on. Director Tan Siok Siok invited me to join her as Producer back in February last year when we met over a coffee.

At that point the movie was still in rough cut form and Siok had started showing it to audiences to help her work out what the projects evolution could and should be. I watched the movie at a screening at Hackerspace in Singapore the next evening and was hooked.

The documentary presents Sioks personal and genuine exploration of “what Twitter is”. Something of particular intrigue to her and her as a Beijing resident where Twitter sits on the wrong side of the Great Firewall of China. As Twitter is a “social network” it soon becomes clear that Twitter is and will always be whatever it’s users, or tweeps, want it to be. Where they find value is where the networks purpose and value lives, or dies.

Through our conversations it became clear that the natural next step should be to extend this ethos into the evolution of the movie. Through 2011 we ran fifteen “beta” screenings across 3 continents including Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, SF, NY, Chicago London, Singapore, KL and Beijing.

After each beta screening we captured the live audience twitter conversation. This input was used in creating a new iteration of the movie. Characters & scenes were added, expanded, edited and cut, iteration by iteration, as a flowing, organic crowd-sourcing experiment.

By the end of the year the movie had evolved through fifteen of these iterations, carefully and skilfully curated by Siok. And all done whilst she simultaneously managed and grew her start-up business in Beijing – quite an amazing feat, I’m sure you’ll agree!

The movie completed post production in Beijing and LA at the end of February 2012 and has been screened at various festivals and community screenings including: the Cinequest (Silicon Valley) Film Festival, Oldenburg Film Festival, Urban Tribes Film Festival and fringe screenings at festivals like SxSW (with pop-up screenings for crowds at SxSW from the back of a FedEx truck being the most crazy – and fun – to date).

This week will see it’s theatrical premier in New York City at the 42nd street AMC on Tuesday at 8pm. It’s being screened as part of the 140conf, Founded and curated by Executive Producer @JeffPulver (and yes, pizza will be served!).

So what’s next?

Distribution
Well, as mentioned, the movie will be available for download via the website and various blogs this week and will be available on other sites such as Amazon over the next few weeks.

We’re using Distrify to help us with blogger and web distribution, Distrify provide a very exciting set of tools for independent movie makers and we’ll post further updates about how this as distribution progresses.

Requests for community screenings continue to flow and we have a number already confirmed for July and August in Europe, Asia and the Americas including our first in India, Indonesia and Latin America.

We’ve also received enquiries about purchase of TV screening rights from media companies in countries such as Israel, Australia, NewZealand and Singapore. We’ve held back on these to date to avoid any confusion with (the frankly archaic) Geographical exclusivity requirements before we had made the movie available for download online.

Case Study
The “making of Twittamentary” has also been made into a case study by Michael Netley (@communicateasia) , Corporate Communications professor at Singapore Management University. The case study has been made available, free of charge, to graduate and post graduate institutions via the http://www.ecch.com website and will be used as teaching material at various educational institutions around the world from next semester. It’s being translated into Spanish by a faculty of the university of Madrid. Later this month Michael will start on a “b” case study about distribution of the movie. More news on this as we have it.

Lessons Of..
We’ll be putting together some “lessons from Twittamentary” using clips from the movie. Twittamentary is becoming a popular teaching & insight tool for corporate, media and government organisations. The use of social media is becoming so pervasive, so quickly, that it’s easy to forget just how nascent and embryonic the whole ecosystem is. And how much and how fast we, as massed humanity, are evolving the way that we communicate and interact. These notes will be made”open” for people to edit, use and customise as they require.

‘Open Sourcing” Twittamentary
In the past month or so we’ve seen audio and video content from Twittamentary starting to be reused and repurposed in different ways. For example DJ’s in Singapore are working on mashups of audio clips in new trance and house tunes. It’s wonderful to see this happening and we’ll be making more of the raw audio, video and soundtrack content available on web over the next month or so.

If you have any other suggestions, we’re all ears, please tweet us!